Chapter 10: Rescue
For a long while, Draden just stood there, feeling the heat, even with the distance that separated him and the lava as it continued to flow. There was still a chance…maybe Kladspir was alive? So he waited until finally the last streams of magma ended, leaving behind newly paved and smoothed, red-hot rock.
He turned solemnly and walked around the bend, catching sight of the second gate.
Perfect timing. Just Perfect.
She awoke in the middle of a small, circular area surrounded on all sides by unscalable mountains. Her fingers felt soft earth, and a few scatterings of leaves littered the area.
She stood up slowly, mahogany hair falling in untidy waves around her shoulders. “How did I get here?” She didn’t realize she had spoken until her voice echoed loudly back at her. She was answered by a high cackle, and a black form snapped before her in a gush of wind. “Why am I here?” she asked desperately. She seemed to have some recollection that this thing wasn’t friendly.
“You,” it spat, “are here to die.” It laughed and disappeared in a fuzzy blur, leaves swirling in its wake.
The second witch had now met the same fate as the previous: a black splotch on the stone ground. In all honesty, Draden was getting tired of seeing the lava. It only served as a reminder of Kladspir. All the same, it was efficient.
Kladspir’s death wasn’t affecting him as strongly as he’d expected. The man was merely an acquaintance; they had been a ways from being friends. Still, he was sad that Kladspir had died, and now he was lonely: he had to go all the way to Cradof by himself…not to mention explain to the king or whoever was in charge of Kladspir what had happened to him.…
“Ligrano,” he said nonchalantly. An orange-yellow orb sparked into existence before him. ‘It’s kind of disturbing that it gives me comfort,’ he thought to himself.
“Hmm,” he said as an idea formed. “I wonder… are you the same light orb as before?” he said to the light.
It bobbed up and down.
“D-did you just answer me?”
It once again moved up and down.
“Cool! Can you speak?” he asked it.
Now it sped through the air, forming words with its light trail: “Only if you teach me.”
“Wow!” Draden exclaimed. “What happened when that Fire Child hit you? Did you die?”
It began its trail again. “I cannot die; I am light. I was merely overpowered by a source of energy stronger than mine, and was forced back to my plain of light.”
“Wait…plain of light?! Do you mean land of light?”
“Yes; whatever you call it. There are many plains to my world. I return when you call me,” it answered in its light patterns.
‘Oh,’ he thought. ‘Does that mean I’m keeping it here against its whim? Nah; what whim? It’s a light.’
“Do you have a name?” he asked foolishly.
The orb seemed exasperated-if that’s possible-in its answer. “I have no name; I am light.”
“Then I’ll call you… Flight.”
The orb traced the name in the air, then bobbed energetically up and down.
“Okay then, Flight it is! Draden exclaimed happily.
Overcoming this distraction and remembering what he was set out to do, he said, “We’d better get going. We should find shelter before nightfall.” He looked up past the mountains; the sun was low in the sky. Half of the day had been spent in that mountain. They could have made it past the third witch by now. Wasted time.
“You are free to go where you want,” he said to Flight.
It glowed brighter in confirmation and began to circle around Draden.
Things weren’t so bad after all.
They were toying with her. They weren’t going to kill her-at least, not yet.
She tried to block their voices out, but it accomplished nothing. They continued to yell threats in her ears and tell her lies.
There were at least three of them now, but she couldn’t tell for sure; they moved so fast, it was impossible to keep track of where they were.
She couldn’t even try to escape, because they barred her path whenever she moved. ‘Why are they keeping me here?!’ she thought in despair.
“Because we can,” they answered her in unison.
A slight breeze blew his hair into disarray, and Flight buffeted around slightly. The orb now cast a bright hue around them both.
“You seem to talk fine; what did you mean ‘only if I teach you’?” he asked the orb as they continued up the uneven path.
Flight began his answer: “I cannot speak, only write. You must tea-” With a sudden squeak, Flight drew himself into a small crack in the wall.
“Flight?” Draden queried, almost laughing. “Where’d you go?”
The light from the orb slowly moved deeper into the crack, then after a while, it reappeared at the speed of…light.
Flight was vibrating intensely, sending off electrical sparks of discharge.
“What, what is it?” Draden asked, confused.
Flight wrote something in the air, but he was so frantic it disappeared before Draden could read it.
“What? Slow down!”
Flight squeaked again, quickly wrote, “Come!”, and sped back into the crack.
’Oh yes, ‘cause I can fit in there... I wonder. That witch used a spell -Jintari- to raise the ground. Maybe I can use it to widen this crack!’
He faced it and placed his hands palm out in the crack. “Jintari.” The word sounded strong and almost earthen.
With a loud chunk, the crack split farther up and the sides began to push away from each other. Soon there was enough room for Draden to fit through.
“Flight?” he asked the dark.
The orb sped back to him from somewhere, still vibrating.
The orb wrote its answer in swirls of yellow, “There’s a girl!”
One of the things slammed into her back, knocking her to the ground.
“The boy is coming! He’s found her!” one of the things said, rushing over in a blur to the just-appeared crack in the wall of rock.
“Kill her now!” another one said.
The one who had knocked her down came to a windy stop next to her and bent down. A gauntlet-covered hand grasped tightly around her throat, lifting her up off the ground.
She coughed, a wheezy attempt at breathing. “N-no…” she coughed again.
The creature cackled in her face. “Yes.”
“Let her go!” screamed Draden.
“Yeah!” exclaimed flight, growing slightly larger and brighter.
“Whoa, you spoke!” Draden said in surprise.
“…Yeah!” Flight said again.
“You learned pretty fa-”
“Focus!” the orb spelled in the air.
“Wha-? Oh, right.” He turned to the current situation. “Let her go!” he repeated.
By now, the girl had turned a pale blue.
Draden brought his hand up before him, a fireball forming. He threw it at the Gorginoth choking the girl, but another one of the creatures intercepted it, moving so fast the flame had no effect.
At this incredible display, Flight shrank and zoomed behind Draden where he pulsed silently.
This wasn’t the best move, for the next second Draden was flipped facedown on an unsuspecting Flight. He jumped back to his feet, the orb sliding from its hole in the ground, and he ran towards the girl.
He was stopped on his second step, knocked backward with such a force that he saw spots.
Then-through the stars in his eyes-he saw everything grow intensely bright, and Flight was glowing like a mini sun.
He knew this was his chance. “Alektar!” He threw up his hands and a bolt of lightning formed, striking the first Gorginoth who was stupid enough to intercept it. The electric bolt passed through it, quickly forming a chain of purple plasma to the second creature, and finally to the one holding the girl.
The foes writhed as electric currents sparked through their beings. In a final burst of light, the bolt ceased and the three Gorginoths collapsed to the ground in smoking heaps. The girl fell on her back, unconscious, and also slightly smoking.
‘Just great… I electrocuted her. Good thing I can heal.’
He walked over to the girl, feeling stupid, and placed his hands on her arm. “Ditiri.” Blue tendrils snaked from his fingertips, sinking into her skin.
Flight floated above her head, blinking white and yellow slowly. “She’s pretty,” it spelled in the air.
Draden turned his eyes up to her face. Her nose was slender and non-obtrusive, her eyebrows thin and curved over her fluttering, mahogany eyelashes. Her lips were also slender and slightly parted. Her hair was a deep brown, lying in a fluffy pillow under and around her head.
’She is beautiful. I mean... pretty…’ he thought shyly.
Underneath his fingers, the blue tendrils ceased, and the girl’s eyes blinked open.
She instantly let out a blood-curdling scream, and flight resumed his position of pulsing silently behind Draden.
“Get your hands off me!” she yelled, roughly pushing him away and crawling backwards.
Not expecting this reaction at all, Draden stuttered, “I-it’s okay. I’m h-here to help you.”
The girl seemed to calm down-slightly-at this, but she still eyed him with distrust.
Flight appeared briefly over Draden’s shoulder, then zoomed back out of sight.
“I’m Draden,” he said calmly. “We need to get moving before more of those things come. You may not trust me, but if you don’t want to meet any more of them then come with me.
She slowly stood up, shivering, and warily eyed Draden.
Flight zoomed out from behind Draden, floating to a bobbing stop in front of the girl.
“That’s Flight,” Draden chuckled. “He’s a light orb, and he’s harmless.”
Flight glowed brighter and spelled, “Who are you?” before her.
The girl smiled at this and answered, “I’m Loran.”
Her voice was smooth and reminded him-a sharp pain in his chest-of Melana’s. He liked her already.
It seemed the name ‘Fool’s Pass’ was merely a misnomer, for nothing happened until they were far past the dangerous heights and narrow paths that was the pass. Come to think of it, that was probably the reasoning for its name.
Loran had loosened up a great deal over the last few hours, and they had learned she was from a town called Marfrod-east of Perdfale-in the desert.
Now, as they walked around the last bend, they happened upon an amazing sight.
The path veered steeply down to the base of the third-and final-gate. At their elevation, they could see over it and to the other side.
Streams of water from the Gsiper River snaked outward, creating a small marsh where on both sides were steep, but small mountains that boxed it in. The river entered to the left through a crevice between the hills, and on the right was the ocean that was its end. Though it could barely be seen behind the mountains, it was sparkling with the silver spots of thousands of stars, shimmering like rain falling on water.
Weeping willows stood erect in the marsh, the bases of their trunks hidden in the dark water, branches dipping into the inky liquid as ripples circled around their gently moving tendrils.
It was calming and frightening all at once.
The river had run through for many centuries, so it had eroded its own tiny crevice, a fallen willow trunk bridging the gap.
Draden’s voice broke the silence, “Well, we’d better get going.”
So, he started down the hill, Loran close behind. Flight remained hovering at the top of the incline. His light was dim and he vibrated slowly. He would never admit it, but he feared water. Finally, after Draden and Loran had reached the gate, he moved from his spot and towards his new friend.